Validating screening tools for depression in stroke and transient ischemic attack patients

Joey C. Prisnie, Kirsten M. Fiest, Shelagh B. Coutts, Scott B. Patten, Callie A.M. Atta, Laura Blaikie, Andrew G.M. Bulloch, Andrew Demchuk, Michael D. Hill, Eric E. Smith, Nathalie Jetté

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective The best screening questionnaires for detecting post-stroke depression have not been identified. We aimed to validate four commonly used depression screening tools in stroke and transient ischemic attack patients. Methods Consecutive stroke and transient ischemic attack patients visiting an outpatient stroke clinic in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) completed a demographic questionnaire and four depression screening tools: Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9, PHQ-2, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-D), and Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15). Participants then completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID), the gold-standard for diagnosing major depression. The questionnaires were validated against the SCID and sensitivity and specificity were calculated at various cut-points. Optimal cut-points for each questionnaire were determined using receiver-operating curve analyses. Results Among 122 participants, 59.5% were diagnosed with stroke and 40.5% with transient ischemic attack. The point prevalence of SCID-diagnosed current major depression was 9.8%. At the optimal cut-points, the sensitivity and specificity for each screening tool were as follows: PHQ-9 (sensitivity: 81.8%, specificity: 97.1%), PHQ-2 (sensitivity: 75.0%, specificity: 96.3%), HADS-D (sensitivity: 63.6%, specificity: 98.1%), and GDS-15 (sensitivity: 45.5%, specificity: 84.8%). Areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves were as follows: PHQ-9 86.6%, PHQ-2 86.7%, HADS-D 85.9%, and GDS-15 66.3%. Conclusions The PHQ-2 and PHQ-9 are both suitable depression screening tools, taking less than 5 minutes to complete. The HADS-D does not appear to have any advantage over the PHQ-based scales, even though it was designed specifically for medically ill populations. The GDS-15 cannot be recommended for general use in a stroke clinic based on this study as it had worse discrimination due to low sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-277
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • GDS-15
  • HADS-D
  • PHQ-9
  • accuracy
  • mental health
  • validation


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